Kiwi teenagers help quake-hit Ecuador

Kiwi teenagers help quake-hit Ecuador

Desperate rescues are still being carried out in Ecuador, with the death toll from Sunday's earthquake now more than 400.

A group of Kiwi teenagers in the country have turned their focus to assisting with the recovery.

Onlookers clapped and cheered as rescuers pulled out a man trapped beneath the rubble of a collapsed hotel. It was a stressful wait for the man's wife. He had called her from his cellphone while stuck under the wreckage.

Searchers say their main priorities now are carrying out rescues where there are signs of life, and recoveries where there is the smell of death.

But Ecuador also needs to feed the tens of thousands who have been displaced.

The country's president today visited Portoviejo -- one of the worst-affected areas. He also thanked those locally and internationally who have offered help.

Four people joining that list are New Zealand teenagers Gabrielle, Meg, Lachie and Toby. They're on a gap year teaching English in Ecuador's south, but are now focusing on helping the recovery.

"This evening we've all been at the University of Azuay, packaging food and medicine and water and getting it all loaded into trucks that are driving up north," says Kiwi volunteer Toby Dobson-Smith.

Ten Kiwis in total are part of the group, around 400 kilometres away from the worst hit coastal region. They had considered travelling there, but thought it would be better to offer help without getting in the way.

"There's no infrastructure or facilities, and so having to have more people there could possibly be not as helpful as we would have liked," says Gabrielle Kerridge-Temm.

The group also plans on setting up a Givealittle page for New Zealanders to offer whatever they can.

"Ecuador's not a particularly rich nation," says Kiwi volunteer Lachie Davidson. "They do have really poor parts and they do need all the help we can get, so we'll definitely focus on helping out for a while before we can get back to our other volunteering."

It's a small contribution to a rapidly growing disaster.